What is Toile? Fabric Guide and Explanation

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If you’re out here wondering what is Toile and why you haven’t heard of it before, that’s all right. This type of fabric did have its prime during the earlier 1900’s era, particularly rising to popularity during the Colonial Era of the US. It has an aesthetic akin to that of historical spots like Colonial Williamsburg and other preservationist towns. When the fabric had a resurgence during the 1970s, it was used more as a fabric for upholstery, draperies, and wallpapers for brands like Loome Fabrics and Timorous Beasties.

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What is Toile?What is Toile vs. Toile de JouyWhat is Toile vs. LinenWhat is Toile? Its HistoryWhat Toile is Used For?What is Toile – Aftercare and Laundry PracticesWhat is Toile -In ConclusionMORE FABRIC TYPES

What is Toile?

Ultimately, Toile is a printed fabric with a distinct style and line work similar to that of the Art Nouveau movement. That said, we invite you to read more about what is Toile and how you can make the most out of it.

Toile has meant several things in the design and fashion industry, but in the 18th century, it gained prominence as a printed fabric of French origin. The word itself means “fabric,” specifically cloth or linen made in the suburban town of Jouy-en-Josas in Paris. Hence its full name, Toile de Jouy.

Over time, it has evolved to be the design aesthetic it is more commonly known today. Its distinct pastoral and romantic patterns akin to Art Nouveau were used on non-fabric materials for the home like draperies, fine china, and wallpapers. These were usually printed on black, red, or blue single-colored unbleached fabrics, but now, it comes in a variety of color schemes, with more explorative pattern designs. The term “Toile” also pertains to a piece of garment used by designers and Toilers for testing new prints.

Usually, with an off-white or plain backdrop, Toile has a repeating pattern showing a rather intricate picture, usually representing pastoral normal day occurrences like children playing or a couple enjoying a picnic near a lake. The design may also be vinery or an intricate flower arrangement with flowing and curling lines. Each hue and shade in the pattern is represented by a single color or a monochromatic scheme, which is most commonly black, maroon, or dark blue. When thinking about what is Toile design, we determine it to have less earthly colors like greens, and browns, although there are certainly some designs with that aesthetic.

Antique Toile FabricAntique Toile FabricPinAntique Toile Fabric

What is Toile vs. Toile de Jouy

Basically, both of these terms may be used interchangeably when referring to a printed design on French cloth or linen. Toile de Jouy, however, is more specific since it pertains to the type of design that first originated and rose to fame during the 18th century, at the Oberkampf factory in Jouy-en-Josas, under Jean-Baptiste Huet.

While “Toile” is used as the shortened version for Toile de Jouy, on its own, it is used as a prototype for fabric designs. These initial prints are usually done on single-knit fabrics or cheap woven cloths to give designers the overall feel and three-dimensional design. These pattern tests can also be done on a plain, and light fabric like muslin and may even be referred to as such.

What is Toile vs. Linen

At first glance, you may see both of these fabrics and consider one as the other, but there is a difference. You see, Toile mainly refers to the design of pastoral, floral, and romantic prints, or an initial test print of this said design. So such a print can essentially be done on a variety of fabrics.

Linen, on the other hand, is one of the light fabrics used for test printing. That said, the main difference between these two fabrics is that linen can be plain, while Toile will always be distinctly printed. On another note, Toile also happens to be a French fabric synonymous with “linen cloth.”

What is Toile? Its History

Back in the 18th century, the printed Toile fabric was first produced in Ireland, but it became more popular in France, so the aesthetic looks more European. The prominence of the printed Toile fabric emerged after Christophe-Philipe Oberkampf, a German businessman, opened a factory in the town of Jouy-en-Josas.

During the same time, he also partnered with Jean-Baptiste Huet, a prolific fashion designer known for the historical and most distinct Toile patterns ever made. These designs featured the classic monochrome pastoral scenery on white background, with vignettes of either the French community or depictions of European lore and mythology. What is Toile in today’s time is a modern derivation of Huet’s designs, after it became the staple for fashion and home design in that era. It is now the overall standard for Toile products up to date.

What Toile is Used For?

In the modern context, Toile may be a term used referring to the pattern printed on canvas or linen cloth when experts are asked. The word is also used in dressmaking, which refers to the initial design of a finished garment on a cheaper fabric intended for testing.

When thinking about what is Toile was in the past, designers considered it as the cloth or fabric for initial designs and prints as part of the testing process. Now, it has a variety of uses, from homewares like bed sheets, draperies, curtains, and fine china and wallpaper.

Here are other products made of and with Toile:

Wallpaper – The most established used for Toile fabrics and its designs are on wallpapers since the repeating patterns create a seamless yet beautiful surface. This decorating style has been used particularly by monarchs in France, specifically for the rooms and halls in Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s home.Apparel and Clothing – While not commonly used for shirts and other clothing pieces, Toile remains a viable option for more flowing apparel like dresses, aprons, and skirts. Some clothes may also be referred to as Toile more so because of its pattern than for its fabric composition. It is also used as gowns and dresses for social events in northern European society, like during country-themed get-togethers, tea parties, and garden brunches.Window and Fenestration Treatments – Given its workability and customization features, Toile is a great fabric to use for draperies, curtains, linen blinds, and valances in any type of home.Upholstery and Beddings – The creative potential of Toile also makes it a viable cloth for sofas, pillows, chairs, and other cushions for the home. It is also great for beddings, sheets, canopy covers, blankets, and duvets.Chinaware – In this case, we are pertaining to Toile as a pattern than a fabric material. There may be times when you find a certain pastoral pattern on fabric that is also printed on antique tea sets and fine dining pieces. This is also referred to as Toile.

What is Toile – Aftercare and Laundry Practices

The principle behind caring for your Toile pieces is to preserve the print. There are no specific aftercare and laundry practices for the Toile fabrics since these pieces can vary from linen to jersey. All we have to do is to make sure the patterns don’t bleed, fade, or unravel. This way, we can make the most out of our Toile fabrics, given that it has quite the history attached to it.

That said, here are a few general guidelines on what is Toile aftercare, geared to preserve the integrity of your print. This way, no matter the textile, your Toile print stays for a good while.

Hand washing your toil pieces in cold water instead of lukewarm water can ensure that the dye retains its vibrant colors.When putting the fabric in the wash, the best practice is to wash it with colors or other fabrics of lighter colors. Washing them with other dark colors may cause the dye to bleed from the other clothing pieces into the toil print, thus dulling the color. It is also recommended to use a gentle or mild detergent.When it comes to drying, the best way to do it is to tumble dry on a low setting. Should you hang it to dry, it is most ideal to do it indoors or under a shaded canopy. Drying it directly under the sun may not only cause the colors to fade but may also stiffen your fabric.

What is Toile -In Conclusion

With all that being said, we can all agree that Toile makes for a great fabric choice if your preference leans on the grand-millennial aesthetic. It can be quite difficult to discard such an item with its distinct pattern and comfortable feel, even when it hasn’t made a comeback in fashion.

In closing, we have discussed what is Toile, how it is used, and how to care for your Toile pieces. We hope that with the knowledge we’ve shared, you will learn to appreciate Toile as a fabric even more. The fabric may not be the trendiest at the moment, but it has made its name and left its mark in history. May it also create an impact on your artistic flair, fashion style, and overall appreciation for beautiful fabrics.

Have a great day ahead of you now that you know what is Toile!


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